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Microsoft support for transformation in education:
An interview with Anthony Salcito

James L. Morrison and Anthony Salcito
Published December 2008

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In a conversation with Innovate editor-in-chief James Morrison, Anthony Salcito, the Microsoft general manager for U.S. public-sector education, discusses the Microsoft approach to helping educational institutions transform to meet the needs of 21st century students. Salcito describes how programs like Live@edu are helping universities balance openness with the demands of interoperability and discusses the role of the Microsoft Partners in Learning initiative in encouraging educational institutions across the spectrum to think innovatively about transformation in learning.

As General Manager for U.S. Public Sector Education at Microsoft, Anthony Salcito directs Microsoft’s efforts to enhance the role technology plays in learning. In addition to leading a national team dedicated to providing resources to K–12 and higher education institutions, Anthony is responsible for developing education partnerships and creating innovative programs, including the Microsoft Partners in Learning initiative, to support educational institutions. Anthony has been instrumental in developing strategic relationships with educational institutions via dedicated engagement and commitment to education. He was a catalyst for Microsoft’s participaton with the School District of Philadelphia to build an innovative high school in Philadelphia, and he created the Microsoft Technology Friends Network, which links IT professionals and developers willing to donate their expertise with schools and nonprofit organizations in need of technology support.

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I spoke with Anthony at EDUCAUSE 2008 about the Microsoft vision for technology in education.

James L. Morrison [JLM]: Anthony, thanks for taking the time to speak with me. Let’s start with the broader picture. What does Microsoft see as its role in education today?

Anthony Salcito [AS]: I get a chance to see schools, universities, and school districts all over the country. I see good models and bad models, and folks often struggling with the same issues, but all aspiring to the same thing: providing opportunities for students to live better lives, to have better futures, and to achieve their full potential. At Microsoft, we believe that we have a tremendous responsibility to contribute to these goals. We do this not just with our technology, but also with the other resources we have as a company that are a real part of that process of transformation in learning; we can apply our innovation, our people, our technology to help make the lives of students and the jobs of educators and institutions easier, better, and more productive.

One thing that I love about my job is the ability to connect with institutions and really share. They tell us what they need and the challenges that they’re facing, and we share that within Microsoft so that we can help address their issues, but we also share best practices and issues between institutions.

JLM: You spoke of Microsoft’s responsibility to contribute to a process of transformation in learning. What do you mean by “transformation in learning”?

AS: Transformation in learning is shifting from the 20th century learning model focused on core content and assessments to the 21st century learning model, which is much broader about how competencies come into it. Transformation in learning moves from content rigor to assessment, then to real exploration and active participation in learning and discovery, and then to really changing the way the classroom looks. At any given time, leaders are nurturing for the future, managing the present, and building identity. Students follow a similar pattern, although most students focus on managing the present, and they need to balance that more with building identity, which students naturally do with technology such as social networking sites. Students want to make sure they have an identity and they want to make sure they are nurturing for the future, which is all about managing the skills and competencies they need for the workforce that they will enter. New learning models are not going to replace core content and assessments, but rather shift the balance of the learning model. Transformation is also happening in the physical environment, moving from the traditional “sage on the stage” model to real, active learning communities whose members participate in projects.

Transformation can also happen in subject matter: from traditional subjects studied separately to models where all subjects are pulled together to work on authentic problems. Transformation is not just about getting technology into the mix. It’s about thinking about what you’re trying to do. In many cases, if you’re trying to transform subjects, you may feel technology is not necessary. You can transform just by changing the classroom structure, changing the assessments, changing the competencies, or adding to the mix. Often, we’ll find that technology plays a role, but it has to be placed in the right context to be really effective, and I think educators are starting to learn that.

JLM: What are some of the issues that you see schools and universities struggling with as they make that transformation?

AS: We see institutions struggling with a lot of the same things as they think about delivering 21st century learning environments. Often, as they think about modernizing their learning environments, they think about technology first. And they think about acquisition of computers, technology equipment, and stuff for the classroom or the campus.

Transformation should start much more fundamentally in terms of what kind of relationship you want to have with your teachers; what kind of dialogue you want to have with your content, your curriculum, your learning; and what kind of tools you can use to create personalized, adaptive, and relevant learning environments for students. As you answer those questions, as you apply rigor to the process of asking those questions, technology will often be a part of that answer. And you’ll find a way to say, “Well, as we think about creating this vision of how we apply learning and collaboration and 21st century skills to the lifestyle of a student, we’re going to need technology to help solve some of those challenges, or address some of those issues, or accelerate the process.”

But often, that’s not the way schools and institutions go about it. They approach the technology first, and then try to build up experience. I think it has a much more powerful impact when you think about the holistic reform first, and then you apply technology to the right issues to create the right environment.

JLM: What is Microsoft doing to help institutions through the transformation?

AS: One of the things that we’re doing is responding to different technologies. The freedom and flexibility that institutions provide in a higher education learning environment are certainly positive and fundamental, but these need to be balanced with an integrated plan and a common experience of identity where students don’t have multiple profiles in a variety of places. For example, a student may have to log into one technology system for physics class, see what assignments are due and what students they are collaborating on for another project in a different system, and then log into their history course work in another system. We see these disparate systems creating more complexity for students and creating roadblocks for institutions. Institutions embrace open campuses where students use a variety of systems — they purchase their own technology, they make their own computing systems in terms of what they’re going to use to collaborate with their peers — and professors define what kind of learning system they want to use and what kind of technology they want to use. That becomes a powerful environment for flexibility and creativity, but it also becomes a challenging environment in which to manage, support, and leverage the connection of all that information.

As we think about our solutions, one of the things Microsoft has really embraced is the need for institutions to connect the dots between all of the ways they use information, collaborate, have shared experiences, and simplify things like security and data management so institutions don’t have to choose between fragmented and monolithic technology experiences. We think that there’s a middle road where users can have a wide variety of experiences and technology resources, but institutions can manage that in a central way that’s connected with common user IDs, common security, and common storage.

One of the things we’ve been doing is something called Live@edu, which provides a variety of services to students, things that students need: e-mail, instant messaging, storage for documents, tools to collaborate and share and create learning spaces with their peers. That has been tremendously valuable in that it provides flexibility to students, and it can be managed and supported by the university infrastructure. The university can incorporate information from the Live@edu system — student e-mail addresses, for instance — in their other systems. They can have a common environment for teachers and students, and that experience can be embraced across a range of browsers and platforms, in a traditional laptop experience or even on mobile devices.

The announcements this week at EDUCAUSE have taken that to a new level. One of the things that we’re doing with these developments is adding another layer to the Office Live Workspace environment. Students can access Microsoft Office Web applications through the browser so they can collaborate around, share, and edit Word, Excel, or PowerPoint documents, for instance online, on the fly. That will be part of our next release cycle for Microsoft Office.

JLM: You mentioned that Microsoft was trying to reach beyond the technology to provide leadership and guidance through the change process. What is happening on that front?

AS: I talked earlier about the rigor that institutions can apply to asking critical questions to drive change. We’ve created a critical question framework that gives examples of questions in various stages of exploration, things like “Who am I trying to create this model for? What am I trying to create? What examples do I have in my institution to leverage?” We have also created a process framework for institutions called the 6i Development Process [video — 30 minutes], which gives six steps that institutions can make as they think about the transformation of learning, whether it’s technology based or not. It could be thinking about how to create collaborative classrooms or how to create more personalized learning experiences. As I said earlier, the solutions may involve technology, but the process does not need to begin with that in mind.

We also provide programs to support students and educators. DreamSpark, for instance, provides our development tools for students. Students who are interested in IT have an opportunity to download tools for free, as well as the knowledge-based resources that could help them become developers.

We have the Innovative Teachers Network, which helps teachers think about innovation, share that, and collaborate with other teachers. It helps teachers continue to iterate on how technology can be used more effectively, in and out of the classroom.

We have many partnership resources, where we work with countries and institutions to drive innovation around how learning can be done more effectively. We have an initiative called Partners in Learning that has active agreements with over 100 countries, where we work within education institutions and country-level governments to think about the core elements that need to be changed. In the United States, that’s connected to cross-collaboration partnerships with universities and K–12 institutions on everything from professional development to more effective math instruction to thinking about online learning and making course management much more a reality.

We also recognize that we have a responsibility as a technology company to provide solutions, tools, and resources that help institutions run more effectively and help teachers and students use, share, edit and collaborate with information more effectively. We also recognize that the lines between students’ social lives and the work they do in the classroom are becoming more and more blurred. We see it as our responsibility to provide students with tools that embrace this and that help them live well in this broad world.

There’s a wide range of activities that we do from the technology side, the community outreach side, as well as exploring partnerships that not only help us deliver value, but also help us learn. We learn a lot about how to be more responsive, understand core issues, and then use that feedback to guide our process going forward. We have active advisory groups, both in higher education and K–12, who help us with areas like interoperability of Microsoft. They help guide our process, our thinking, and our future development of technology programs, among other things.

JLM: I attended a conference in July that Microsoft sponsored, the UNESCO conference, whose theme was global education. Where does the global perspective fit?

AS: The global perspective is valuable, even for those in the United States, because there are creative solutions in countries all over the world that we can learn from. We see many countries with far fewer resources than the United States having to think more creatively about things like technology access and leveraging technology resources to make smarter decisions. From that pressure, you get computing models that I think we can learn from as a country. For example, other countries have addressed access in different ways than in the United States, where there has always been the notion of a digital divide. Other countries have provided funding and acquisition models that reduce the footprint but still give access to technology.

We can also learn from the way in which students connect their learning to relevant education. One of the things we see is that students in other countries connect their learning to their real world much earlier. They connect their learning to what’s going on in their local economies, their workforce environments, and their political landscapes. They think about the relevance of the environment, the economy, the political system, the natural resources, and they apply that to their learning and instruction. They live in the real world much earlier than students in the United States do, and that not only helps them make their learning more relevant, but it connects them to skills that will be appropriate to the 21st century job market.

Connecting students to these skills is an area that Microsoft cares a lot about, so we’ve been working with organizations that really embrace 21st century learning skills. Also, we see that there are many institutions in the United States that embrace competency-based learning assessment, so students are assessed and coached on developing competencies, not necessarily getting grades in courses. Competency-based learning assessment looks at the skills individuals have, such as the ability to collaborate, communicate, apply creative thinking, and how those skills relate to core elements that can be defined and applied broadly to any kind of subject or later on for students in a specific job.

JLM: They are evaluating what’s really essential for success, base competencies, as opposed to grades?

AS: This will be a critical development in preparing students for the workplace. We have a competency-based model inside Microsoft that we evaluate employees against and hire people against. As we think about hiring, we think about what competencies we need to build for, and what people have delivered against qualities like drive for results, creative thinking, and working well with others. The same approach in education, we think, will help prepare students for the workplace, and we’ve provided some tools to help institutions think about that.

Also, increasingly, success is defined by how well you use information, how well you gather information and make decisions about that information, and how well you collaborate with others in this global world. Interaction and connection with others is increasingly important. From the technology side, a lot of what we’re trying to do with Live@edu and Office Web applications really tries to open that up in a computing paradigm, so that no matter what you’re doing, you have access to information and collaboration tools.

These tools are examples of how Microsoft is thinking about software plus services to embrace the new world of technology for institutions. We encourage educators to think about the transformation of learning as opposed to just thinking about technology. That balance, between technological tools and holistic change, is the key to our approach.

JLM: Thank you for your time, Anthony. It’s been an enlightening conversation for me and, I’m sure, for our readers.

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James L. Morrison
Professor emeritus of Educational Leadership
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Innovate Editor-in-Chief

James L. Morrison

James L. Morrison received his Ph.D. in higher education (emphasis on the sociology of higher education) at Florida State University in 1969. He was a lecturer in sociology at the University of Maryland, European Division, a graduate assistant in sociology at the University of Munich (1964-1965), an instructor in sociology at Florida State University (1968-1969), and an assistant professor of education and sociology at Pennsylvania State University (1969-1973). He moved to The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as associate professor of education in 1973 and was promoted to full professor in 1977. In December 2001, he became professor emeritus.


Morrison founded and served as first president of the American Educational Research Association (AERA) Special Interest Group (SIG) on Postsecondary Education, and later, when the SIG became Division J, served as vice president and member of the AERA Council. He also served as convener of the Forum on Environmental Scanning, The American Association for Higher Education; served two terms as a member of the Board of Directors, Association for the Study of Higher Education; chaired AERA’s SIG on Futures Research; chaired the editorial board, The Review of Higher Education; and served as consulting editor of The Review of Educational Research, The American Educational Research Journal, and the ASHE-ERIC Research Report Series. He founded On the Horizon in 1993 and served as editor until April 2000. With James Ptaszynski, he co-founded and served as editor of The Technology Source from March 1997 until December 2003. In March 2004, he founded Innovate, where he is currently the editor. He received the Distinguished Scholar Award from the American Educational Research Association’s Special Interest Group on Strategic Change at the 1999 annual meeting.


Morrison is author and co-author of over 200 publications focusing on educational planning and on using information technology tools in educational organizations, including Mobilizing for Transformation: How Campuses Are Preparing for the Knowledge Age [with Donald Norris] (Jossey-Bass, 1997), Anticipatory Management [with William Ashley] (Issue Action Press, 1995), The Alternative Futures Approach to Long-Range Planning: A Handbook for Army Long-Range Planners (Department of the Army, 1990), Futures Research and the Strategic Planning Process [with William L. Renfro and Wayne I. Boucher] (Association for the Study of Higher Education, 1984), and Applying Methods and Techniques of Futures Research [with William L. Renfro and Wayne I. Boucher] (Jossey-Bass, 1983). The latter two publications and two articles, “Establishing an Environmental Scanning Capability to Augment College and University Planning,” and “Managing Uncertainty” [with Thomas V. Mecca] were cited as critical reading in A Guide to New Planners (Norris and Poulton, Society for College and University Planning, 1991). Several of his most recent publications are “The Strategic Management Response to the Challenge of Global Change” (with Ian Wilson), “Analyzing Environments and Developing Scenarios for Uncertain Times” (with Ian Wilson), “Using the Futures Program as a Tool for Transformation: A Case Study of Lincoln University, New Zealand” (with Allan Sargison and Debbie Francis), “Anticipatory Management Tools for the 21st Century” and “Anticipatory Management: Tools for Better Decision Making” (both with William Ashley), and “U.S. Higher Education in Transition. “ He edited a CD-ROM titled Technology Tools for Today’s Campuses (Microsoft, 1997). He is currently working on a book-length manuscript with George Wilkinson and Linda Forbes titled Common “ Sense Management for Educational Leaders. See his curriculum vita for a complete list of publications (many of which are now available on the Web).

Seminar and workshop experience

He has made over 240 conference presentations and workshops on strategic management, strategic planning, scenario-based planning, issues management, institutional vulnerability audits, environmental scanning, and using technology in educational organizations for such associations as EDUCAUSE, the World Future Society, the Society for College and University Planning, the American Association for Higher Education, the American Council on Education, the Association for the Study of Higher Education, the American Educational Research Association, the College Board, the Association for Community and Junior Colleges, the American Association of Community Colleges President’s Academy, the Georgia Distance Learning Association, the Missouri Distance Learning Association, the Southeastern Association for Community College Research, the Michigan Community College Student Services Association, the North Carolina Association for Institutional Research, the Southern Association for Institutional Research, the European Association for Institutional Research, the Association for Institutional Research, the National League for Nursing, the Credit Union Executives Association, IBN International, and the American Association of School Administrators. See his curriculum vita for a complete list of presentations and workshops.

Consulting experience

Morrison has served as a planning consultant to a number of colleges (Caldwell, Edinboro, Hood, Lenoir-Rhyne, Saint Augustines), universities (Alabama, Arizona State, Cardinal Stritch, Clemson, Drexel, Kansas, Indiana, James Madison, Lincoln [New Zealand], Maine Maritime Academy, Southwestern Adventist, Qatar, Rochester Institute of Technology, Tennessee, Thunderbird, the Virgin Islands, and Winthrop), university systems (Maine, Maryland), university continuing education centers (Georgia), community college systems (South Carolina), community colleges (Delta [MI], Jamestown [NY], McHenry County [IL] College, Metropolitan Community College [Omaha], Metropolitan Community Colleges [Kansas City], Northwestern Michigan College, Onondaga, St. Cloud Technical College, William Rainey Harper [IL]), educational agencies (U.S. Department of Education, the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, Ministry of Higher Education, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia), school systems (Orange County [Orlando] Public Schools), educational consortia (Consortium for the Advancement of Public Education), and public agencies (U.S. Department of Labor, Public Pension Guaranty Corporation, California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training, APEC Center for Technology Foresight, and in the Department of the Army, the Office of Chief of Staff, the Office of Chief Army Reserve, the USAR Personnel Center, the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations, the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Doctrine, and the Office of Chief Public Affairs). In the corporate world, he served as a faculty member in the executive leadership training program of Caltex Petroleum Corporation and as a planning consultant to Compaq, Ethan Allen, Inc., the Electrical and Electronics Institute (Thailand), the Lisboa Associates, Microsoft, SCT, SmartForce, and Andrulis Research Corporation. His consulting activities focus on assisting organizations in developing environmental scanning/forecasting systems to augment their strategic long-range planning processes and on integrating information technology tools in teaching and in management.

Military experience

Morrison retired from the U.S. Army Reserve (Colonel, Civil Affairs) in April 1992. From 1986-1991 he served as Deputy Commander, Individual Mobilization Augmentee, U.S. Army Research Institute for the Social and Behavioral Sciences. In July 1990, the Secretary of the Army awarded him the Meritorious Service Medal for training Army long-range planners in the alternative futures approach to planning model and for assisting the Chief, Army Reserve in using this model to develop the 1990-2020 Army Reserve long-range plan. In April 1991, the Secretary of the Army awarded him the second highest award authorized for peacetime, the Legion of Merit Medal, for his career contributions to planning for the Total Army.

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Anthony Salcito
General Manager for Public Sector Education
Microsoft Corporation

Anthony Salcito

Anthony Salcito leads Microsoft efforts to support the role technology plays to enhance learning in K–12 and higher education institutions across the United States. In addition to leading a national team of education resources, Anthony is also responsible for the development of education partnerships and the creation of innovative programs to better support education customers nationally via the Partners and Learning program. As a member of the WW Education Leadership Team, Anthony helps contribute to Microsoft’s overall direction and strategy in support of academic initiatives globally. In these roles, Salcito has been instrumental in developing strategic relationships with education customers via dedicated engagement and commitment to education. He has created several programs that have been leveraged broadly to support the company’s giving efforts and the Microsoft Connected Learning Community initiative, including the Microsoft Technology Friends Network, which links schools and nonprofits to IT professionals and developers who donate their technical expertise to aid with technology support.

Salcito joined Microsoft in 1992, helping to shape the Microsoft marketing outreach plan in the early nineties. During his initial years with Microsoft, he had the opportunity to influence a range of marketing and one-to-many programs, including the product launches for Windows NT and Windows 95.

Salcito is involved with a variety of outreach projects. He has served on the board of the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship and currently serves on the board of directors for Stevens College WebCampus and Western Governor’s University.

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Copyright and citation information for this article

This article may be reproduced and distributed for educational purposes if the following attribution is included in the document:

Note: This article was originally published in Innovate ( as: Morrison, J., and A. Salcito. 2008. Microsoft’s support for transformation in education. Innovate 5 (2). (accessed November 28, 2008). The article is reprinted here with permission of the publisher, The Fischler School of Education and Human Services at Nova Southeastern University.

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